Late Bloomers are guest blog posts at A is for Aging—sharing thoughts and insights from individuals who have launched notable creative efforts in the arts in their Third Age.
RE-PLANTING MY WRITING LIFE
by Carol Coven Grannick
I’m thrilled to be seventy-one and welcoming my first children’s book into the world! REENI’S TURN, a middle grade novel in verse, is the result of a major “re-planting” of myself as a writer.
I’d spent much of my adult life writing poetry, creative nonfiction, essays and, as a clinical social worker, scholarly and clinical papers. But I didn’t have a direction. Two major changes planted seeds for my rest-of-my-life love of, and devotion to, writing for children.
Then I discovered Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism, and left my glass-half-empty tendencies behind. I practiced and integrated the methods of Seligman and other researchers. This changed my clinical practice, teaching and life. Emotional resilience became a foundational tool in my children’s writer’s toolbox.
In 1994 I was six years into motherhood—reading classics and new picture books to our son. I began volunteering at his school’s library and discovered picture books and middle grade novels I’d never known existed. I wrote “The Inside Ballerina” in 1999 about a young dancer who discovers that her shyness, rather than her round body size, is her obstacle to performing.
“It’s a Cricket story, Mom,” said my ten year-old son. I sent it in and it was published in a 2001 Cricket issue. My journey solidified. I embarked on years of learning, practicing, revising and submitting. I received massive numbers of rejections and an acceptance here and there. A poem, a couple of stories and lots of articles and posts as a columnist and guest blogger.
I also continued my private practice as a clinical social worker, specializing in helping people create accepting, comfortable, and healthful relationships with food, their bodies, and themselves.
But the content of my first story never left me, and in 2008-9, I drafted what would become REENI’S TURN. I wanted to address the underrepresented issues of young children dieting and stereotyped fat characters in middle grade literature. I wanted to write a story about a young tween struggling with lifelong shyness and self-consciousness. Her decision to perform a solo and her growing, changing body complicate her journey.
I continued to work on other projects, but kept REENI’S TURN alive. Many dozens—of revisions and submissions later, I put the draft away for a period of time. I stopped submitting and focused purely on my writing. It was a journey-changing experience. You can read about that here.
In 2013, I pulled REENI out, tweaked it again, and sent it to the Katherine Paterson Competition at VCFA/Hunger Mountain, with author Katherine Applegate judging. As a Finalist, the story caught an agent’s interest. This turn on my journey lasted almost two years, with six massive revisions, half a year of consideration by an acquisitions committee, and a difficult and communication-challenged experience.
That experience knocked me down for longer than anything else had. But my belief in the book, encouragement from supportive colleagues and an Honorable Mention from the 2018 Sydney Taylor Manuscript Competition committee led me to revise REENI’S TURN to the shorter, simpler story I had always wanted it to be.
In one last round of agent submissions, I researched small traditional publishers and found Fitzroy Books, the middle grade literary imprint at Regal House Publishers. Not yet hearing from all the agents who had requested full manuscripts, I decided to go with the offer from Fitzroy Books to publish REENI’S TURN.
That night in 1999 was pivotal for me. I did not think about my age, but what I loved—the children’s work I was reading. Writing for children is what I wanted to do.
I’ve been asked, and I’ve wondered: Is there age discrimination in the field? There is age discrimination in the world. But if we accept it and don’t work to challenge it, we cut off our own passions and possible opportunities of a lifetime.
I have been busy, busy, busy with promotion of REENI’S TURN, just published September 13, 2020!
But I’ve also recently signed with a wonderful, perfect-match agent—Joyce Sweeney of The Seymour Agency. She will hopefully shepherd my picture books and early childhood poetry into the world.
I write for the love of it. I write to translate what I experience, think and feel. And I write to hopefully impact the lives of children.
Am I a “late bloomer?” Maybe. But I think of myself as someone who has always been growing and blooming, discovering new turns on the journey. I guess you could call me a perennial.
And as Martin Sheen’s character says in the Netflix show Grace and Frankie—about blossoming into an award-winning community theatre role in his 70s: “I just hope I haven’t peaked too soon!”
Carol Coven Grannick’s debut novel in verse, REENI’S TURN (paperback) is available at indiebound.com, Amazon, and other links at https://carolcovengrannick.com Carol’s short fiction and poetry is forthcoming in Cricket, Ladybug, Babybug, Highlights, and Hello. She is a columnist for the SCBWI-IL Prairie Wind, Cynthia Leitich Smith’s award-winning Cynsations blog and the GROG Blog, and a frequent guest blogger. Carol has received a Ragdale Foundation Writer’s Residency and an Illinois Arts Council Grant for past work on REENI’S TURN.
Late Bloomers defy age stereotypes and help show us the way to tap into our creativity using life experience, energy and positive attitudes.
“Creativity keeps us fresh, keeps us alive, keeps us moving forward.”
(Rollo May, psychotherapist and author of Courage to Create.)
*Find more late bloomers guest posts here.